After Market: Good News Out of Congress Can't Stem Stocks' Fall


Stocks continued to retreat Wednesday despite a bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill that looks likely to avert another budget crisis. The major averages ended near session lows, and they've now lost ground in seven of the last nine trading days. Apparently, the bulls need a breather. The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 129 points, the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) lost 57 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) dropped 20 points.

Despite the broad losses, let's start with a look at couple of big winners.

Mastercard (MA) rose 3.5 percent after saying it will split its stock 10-for-1, raise its dividend by 83 percent and buy back up to $3.5 billion worth of stock. Rival credit card company Visa (V) went along for the ride, also gaining 3 percent. But American Express (AXP) and Discover (DFS) both edged lower.

Gunmaker Smith & Wesson (SWHC) rose 4 percent after earnings beat expectations on strong gun sales. But that didn't benefit Sturm Ruger (RGR), which fell 2 percent. Smith & Wesson shares have gained 29 percent over the past year -- which coincides almost to the day with the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre.

Scripps Networks (SNI) jumped 8 percent on reports that Discovery (DISCA) may be preparing a takeover bid. Scripps owns the Food Network, Travel Channel and HGTV.

And Groupon (GRPN) rose 1 percent after Wells Fargo upped its rating on the stock to 'outperform,' citing an improved mobile strategy.

On the downside, we have plenty to choose from.

Among the blue chips, Nike (NKE), UnitedHealth (UNH), and Pfizer (PFE) all lost more than 2 percent. Biotechs continued their recent struggles: Avanir Pharmaceuticals (AVNR) tumbled 29 percent after reporting a failed trial for its potential multiple sclerosis drug. Pharmacyclics (PCYC) fell 7 percent and Aegerion (AEGR) fell 4 percent.

LabCorp (LH), which conducts blood and other medical tests, could use an infusion after tumbling 11 percent. It issued a weak outlook for next year, putting part of the blame on Obamacare. Rival Quest Diagnostics (DGX) fell 5 percent.

The tax preparation firm H&R Block (HRB) fell nearly 3 percent. Its quarterly loss narrowed, but revenue fell. And Costco (COST) lost 1 percent. Its revenue fell short of expectations.

What to Watch Thursday:
  • At 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, the Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims and the Commerce Department releases retail sales data for November.
  • At 10 a.m., Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates and the Commerce Department releases business inventories for October.
These major companies are due to report quarterly financial statements:
  • Adobe Systems (ADBE)
  • Hovnanian Enterprises (HOV)
  • Lululemon Athletica (LULU)
  • Restoration Hardware (RH)
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.

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